TWO TRILLION GALAXIES …
In the Old Testament book of Job, misfortune upon misfortune befalls its protagonist – who desperately seeks an audience with his creator. Stripped of his wealth, his family, his health and his status – Job demands to know why he has been subjected to such suffering.
From within a whirlwind, the Hebrew God Yahweh finally answers him.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” he asks Job, sarcastically.
“Who marked off its dimensions?” Yahweh continued. “Who stretched a measuring line across it?”
Whatever you believe about the creation of the universe, the most recent “measuring line” used to define it just became obsolete.
According to an analysis of data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope, the known universe contains upwards of two trillion galaxies. That’s roughly ten times as many galaxies as scientists previously estimated were in existence.
“There is such an abundance of galaxies that, in principle, every point in the sky contains part of a galaxy,” a team led by Christopher Conselice of the University of Nottingham concluded. “However, most of these galaxies are invisible to the human eye and even to modern telescopes, owing to a combination of factors: redshifting of light, the Universe’s dynamic nature and the absorption of light by intergalactic dust and gas, all combine to ensure that the night sky remains mostly dark.”
Our own solar system is located in the Orion arm of the Milky Way galaxy, a spiral galaxy that contains anywhere from 100-400 billion stars and is roughly 120,000-180,000 light years in length. The Milky Way is one of approximately 100,000 galaxies in the Laniakea Supercluster – which is an estimated 500 million light years in length. The closest galaxy to ours is the Andromeda galaxy, which is an estimated 2.5 million light years away.
(Click to view)
The data collected by Conselice’s team will be published in coming editions of Astrophysical Journal. Meanwhile scientists expect to learn more about the ever-expanding dimensions of the universe when the James Webb Space Telescope enters service in 2018.
Like most government projects, the Webb telescope is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. It was supposed to have been operational in 2011 at a cost of $1.6 billion. Now, it will launch in 2018 at a cost of more than $8 billion.
Then there’s the bigger question of whether this sort of exploration is something government ought to be subsidizing in the first place (we believe the answer to that question is “no”).
Of course our views on the proper size and scope of government on this small terrestrial sphere seem less significant than ever, don’t they?
Same with your views.
Same with the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
Or any election.
Or the “War against Terror.”
Or any war …
Against the sprawling vastness of the still-unfolding cosmos – which now appears to stretch infinitely in all directions – what is humankind? And what are these arguments we keep having with one another?
It is all within the blink of the eye … if that …
(Banner image via NASA Hubble Site)